Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Brad Mehldau / Brad Mehldau Trio

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Seymour Reads the Constitution! Review

by Matt Collar

A straightforward acoustic jazz trio album, 2018's Seymour Reads the Constitution! nonetheless holds surprises for longtime Brad Mehldau fans. Moving away from his genre-bending collaboration with Chris Thile and his equally cross-pollinated exploration of J.S. Bach's classical pieces, After Bach, Mehldau settles into this warmly rendered set of originals and covers that fits nicely into his overall discography. Joining the pianist are his longtime associates bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. Together, they've recorded often since the early 2000s, with Grenadier having worked regularly with Mehldau since the mid-'90s. Consequently, they play with an almost preternatural sensitivity, accenting each other's lines and swinging with an easy, mutative pulse. It's a sound that brings to mind Keith Jarrett, whose iconic trio is a clear touchstone for Mehldau here. The influence is especially felt on the aptly named Mehldau original "Spiral," in which the pianist lays down a descending circular theme in a roiling time signature that has the dreamy feel of riding on a train with your eyes closed. They conjure an equally Jarrett-esque vibe on their sophisticated reading of Sam Rivers' classic "Beatrice," with Mehldau moving in and out of tonality during his kinetic, serpentine solo. As intense as that track can be, it never gets out of hand. In fact, much of the album has a balmy, laid-back quality as if it were recorded during a sunny afternoon at home. That sunny atmosphere is also at the core of the title track, in which Mehldau and Grenadier often share the melody, bumping up against each other in a bluesy dance. Elsewhere, they launch into a sprightly rendition of the Lerner & Loewe standard "Almost Like Being in Love" and offer up a bright, waltz-like take on the Beach Boys' "Friends," the latter of which is so friendly you can almost sense Mehldau and his bandmates smiling at each other.

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